Not To Be Confused with “Abe Lincoln Vs. Zombies”
This post was originally featured at Writers Write Daily as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
I’m a voracious reader. I love to explore new genres and time periods I have never read pieces from which is probably why my collection of books runs such a strange gamut. Some of my most recent purchases (or borrows) have been: “Captivate & Control” by Raymond Frazee, “Cedar Woman” by Debra Shively Welch, “A Dance with Dragons” by GRRM, “The Kobold Wizard’s [censored] of Enlightenment +2” by Carlton Mellick III, and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame-Smith.
Historical fiction has always been a favorite of mine – whether it was frothy, romantic novels by Rosalind Laker, time-line twisting adventures like “1632” by Eric Flint, or alternate realities following what if questions such as: what if the Nazis had won WW2? Maybe that’s why my modern day fantasy novel features a big “What If” of it’s own… What if Mages were real in our frantic post-Y2K world?
The novel I am currently reading is the aforementioned “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame-Smith. the man responsible for the hilarious and action-packed and surprisingly awesome “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. “AL:VH” has been made into a big budget Hollywood film produced by Tim Burton and directed by Timur Bekmambetov. With a pedigree like that, I imagine it will be a fairly fun romp. The motion picture adapation is probably the only reason Jack’s brother picked up the book, but he loved it and passed it on to us.
My quick prediction for the adaption? To be successful, the movie will have to pack a lot more punch than the novel does.
Me? I enjoyed it because I adore alternate reality fiction; because its a welcome tweak to the nose of history buffs who insist that things could only have happened this way because the book cleverly finds ways to subvert these assumptions; because the idea of gangly ‘Honest Abe’ trotting around the western reaches of the United States killing vampires is freaking awesome; and because it really is a unique take on the way overdone vampire fad of the aughts. Still, I would not necessarily say it was ‘action-packed’ in the same way a film by the director behind “Wanted” should be. There is a lot (a LOT) of exposition and very little direct dialogue. Although that breaks several cardinal rules of modern fiction, I liked the fact that the author was not suckered into fitting his vision into the tight box that today’s prose is supposed to fit inside. Instead, he put out a book filled with fictional journal entries, recollections, memories and suppositions, which is peppered with historical fact and just enough photoshopped evidence to make you pause and wonder.
One of my favorite lines, thus far, is when Abe’s little Angel Boy, Eddy dies at the age of three years, ten months, and eighteen days. Henry comes round to console (and tempt) him and makes Abe a beautiful, terrible offer – to bring Eddie back to ‘unlife’ as a vampire. Abraham recalls the heart-wrenching choice:
… However, he saw to it that I received the note before the service. In it were his further condolences…and a reminder that there was another way.
A way to see my boy again.
He would be small forever. An angelic murderer. I could not bear the thought of keeping him locked away in the dark. Of teaching him to kill so that he might live. I could not condemn my son to hell.
This was not the first, nor the last, time Henry would pop into Abe’s (fictional) life and try to use his grief against him, seducing him into soliciting eternal unlife for his deceased loved ones. I think Abe’s vehement denial in this case struck me so strongly because of my personal ‘fed-up-ness’ with the vampire fad of the past decade. Glittery vampires, romantically tortured vampires, good-guys-who-just-happen-to-drink-blood vampires. Boo-hiss. I like my vampires old school. Evil and monstrous. Maybe they have a shred of humanity that regrets what they must do, but still, they are evil because they choose self-preservation over ending themselves (and the violence/killing/sorrow/et cetera that ensues). Abraham Lincoln sees what vampires truly are and what must be done*.
There is a lovely sequence between Abe and his friend Edgar Allen Poe in which Poe romanticizes the unlife in a way that Lincoln cannot wrap his head around. Poe is a gloomy, dark fellow with a penchant for the twisted and depressing, but he is the only other living person Abe knows who is also aware of the existence of vampires. They bond over the subject, with Abe’s abhorrence and Poe’s reverence somehow meeting in the middle.
It ends thusly:
“I begin to suspect,” said Abe, “That you would like to be one of them.”
Poe laughed at the suggestion. “Is not our existence long & miserable enough?” he asked, laughing. “Who in God’s name would seek to prolong it?”
I have not yet finished the novel, but I am more than two-thirds of the way through it and though I do not want this post to sound like a review, I can say that I am enjoying the journey and would certainly read another novel by the author. I would also recommend the book without hesitation to most folk I know. In fact, without knowing a thing about YOU, reader, I will recommend that you check out “AL: VH” and let me know (Facebook, Twitter, Website) what you thought of it.
This novel is certainly out of my typical genre and out of my writing wheelhouse, but it does touch upon most of my favorite things. I’m not sure that I would say it helped my writing technically, because Seth Grahame-Smith breaks all the new conventional rules for how a novel should be paced, white-space, dialogue tags, exposition, blah blah blah – things that I truly take to heart when editing my own work. However, I would say it did open my mind to alternative perspectives and after reading it, I’ve got two new ‘ideas’ floating around my mental inbox, waiting to be fleshed out or tweaked into an existing project. That’s a blessing, and a curse!
What I’d like to know, friends, is have you read anything in this ‘twisted history’ genre? If not – why not? If so, would you recommend the book? Do you like considering the ‘what ifs’ and possibilities of alternate reality? What’s your biggest ‘what if’ moment? For instance, what if the Nazis had won WW2? What if Sarah Palin was elected president? What if no one had ever invented sliced bread, or the telephone, or the iPad?
Love & Rainbows,
*= Note from PP: Oh! Irony. Having now finished the book, a spoiler alert… even Honest Abe isn’t perfect!